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Rising Stars: Meet Melonie Mulkey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melonie Mulkey.

Melonie, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of a musician and a ballerina. We didn’t have much as kids in terms of material things, but my mom always taught us how to be creative and resourceful with what we had, which taught me how to see possibilities instead of limitations at a very young age. In the late ’90s, I spent hours looking at photos of interiors in magazines, imagining what it would be like to live in different places full of interesting decor. I remember cutting out photographs from different interior spaces and creating my own rooms with the images. Photographs were a transport into another world for me, and from an early age, I loved to construct new worlds with images.

I studied theatre and dance through my teen years, and upon graduating high school, I left the South to work in The Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. I fell in love with the scenery of the American West, as many do, as it was an untouchable landscape I could have never imagined, and my love for photography returned. I ended up in Denver, Colorado, where I would start to pursue visual arts seriously. I attended the University of Colorado Denver, double-majoring in Sculpture and Photography in 2011, and later received my Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Notre Dame in 2019.

One thing that has always stayed consistent throughout my artistic practice is my desire to construct images and worlds of interior spaces. My experiences throughout my life shaped my interests and inspired the ideas for what I create today.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
When failure knocks at the door, and it will for all artists pursuing any field, the biggest struggle is embracing that failure and using it as motivation to push forward. There is nothing more rewarding than pursuing your dreams, even if it means that you will have to work two jobs or wait a lifetime for a major retrospective. It is the belief in what your doing and the dedication to it that will always prevail.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
My photographic work investigates interior spaces and the layered histories that exist within the built environment. My artistic practice for the last decade consists of staging scenes for the camera and documenting the result in which I exhibit the final photographic print as the final piece. I currently work in miniature and build sets of interior spaces that I light and photograph using various cameras.

I have exhibited my work in galleries and museums nationally and internationally, and I am patiently waiting for Manifest’s 8th International Photography Annual (INPHA 8), a photographic publication that I have a few works in, which I anticipate seeing very soon in 2021! I am so grateful for the days that I get to make art, and my love for constructing for the camera will be a lifelong commitment.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
I had my first child five months before most of the United States went on ‘lockdown,’ and I can honestly say that it was one of the scariest times of my life but was also the most beautiful time of my life. To have a new baby at the start of the pandemic brought the deepest love and light I had ever known into my life when everything felt like darkness. The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded me that every day is a gift that should not be taken for granted and put in perspective what little time we have on this earth.

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